Saturday, April 28, 2007

While I was out...

I've found myself completely wrapped up in school lately and not in the kitchen. Things have gotten extremely exciting at school and food has been pushed to the back burner. I don't even remember what I ate last week. Here's a bit of a rundown of the latest:
  • When there's no time for fancy, time-consuming dinners I stick to the classics like lamb burgers with minty mayo and simple roasted potatoes with herb de Provence and a creamed leeks side.
  • Then I use leftovers and pass them off as new with these golden yuca cakes smothered in leeks
  • I had a nice little bake sale at school and made blackberry cheesecake pie, chocolate dipped cranberry biscotti, Nutella Frangelico brownies, chocolate caramel cupcakes, and pecan date rice crispies.
  • I'm totally obsessed/excited about Pettibon, CBP, SOT, and Craniopathy which probably means absolutely nothing to any reader here.
  • I really love this dry white port we've had lately: Porto Niepoort from Portugal.
  • I have succumb to the Mario Batali footwear craze -- the Crocs. They aren't bright orange but they are still the ugliest things I've ever seen in my life. However, they are the most practical foot apparatus (can you even call them a shoe?!) ever. If you spend a lot of time on your feet in the kitchen or around the house cleaning and such, get a pair and never leave the house with them on because they are too hideous for the outside world. Your back will be grateful.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Communist Wine

I can't think of anything better than late nights spent sipping a nice bottle of wine. Last night we shared this bottle from Laurel Glen wines. Reds is coined 'a wine for the people.' On the reverse label however, you'll see floating heads of Chairman Mao, Marx, and Lenin. This nice little commie wine is a blend of 40% zin, 25% carignane, and 35% syrah and petite sirah. It is dark, very dark, and nicely spiced. Is it a wine Mao, Lenin, and Marx would want to drink? I, for one, wouldn't know but for under $10 it served its purpose well last night.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not Quite Steak and Potatoes

In the summer I crave cilantro like my life depends on it. I recently planted (for a second time) some cilantro of my own. I was slightly confused when I bought it since the leaves were not the large, fat leaves I was used to. After some nosing around on Google, I've figured out that I picked up the delfino cilantro instead of the usual large leaf variety. I must admit I was rather sad at first and considered pulling it up and starting again (for a third time) -- that distinct lovely cilantro smell just wasn't there. Then we had steaks and yuca.

I prepared the sirloins as usual -- letting them reach room temperature or thereabouts and seasoning them accordingly. Then I caramelized some onion with turbinado sugar. While I was waiting for the onion to turn translucent, my yuca was draining in a colander, post-boil. I pan fried the yuca until it got a little crisp and added a splash of lime but there was still something missing in this meal. I had thought my little cilantro plant was both lacking aroma and taste but I picked some anyway to see what happened. Running the knife through it, I found out just how wrong it would be to pull up my little plant outside on the deck. Not only was it helping me become carbon neutral, it was also full of flavor. The kitchen exploded in wonderful cilantro limey smell. I tossed it with my yuca, I garnished my steaks; dinner was complete. Delicious.

Unfortunately, a lot of people around the world don't have the right taste buds for cilantro. They think it tastes of soap. They like to picket and burn it on the streets. I hope they come around.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bacon and Eggs

I have not cooked the entire week. Between 'too-tired-must-order-pizza' nights and nights alone while the boyfriend stuffs his face with company dinners, I have definitely not eaten well this week. As a result, oddly enough, I haven't felt all that inspired to cook anything either. On nights like these I resort to the simplest and quickest meals I can find. I don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen and I don't want to spend an hour cleaning up afterward either.

Enter Jamie Oliver.

Oh, you dear towheaded chef of chefs. Isn't it lovely how your cookbooks are so thoughtfully put together for situations as these. Not to mention, I can be confident that throwing something of yours together will turn out to be tasty.

This carbonara hits the spot. Jamie's recipe was for 4 so I cut it in half as best I could. Sometimes his measures are simply a handful of this, a handful of that. I doubt my hands are as large as his but I made due.

Carbonara with Bacon and Peas
adapted from Jamie's Dinners

1/2 lb farfalle (that's bowtie!)
half a package of bacon (about 6-7 slices, I used Maverick's bacon because it is nitrite-free)
1 egg
3 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
3/4 C frozen peas
1/4-1/2 C of grated Parmesan, Romano, Asiago (whatever you have around)
3-4 sprigs of mint, leaves torn
salt and pepper to taste

First bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. While you're waiting on that cook the bacon until it is nice and crispy. Drain and set it aside to cool before you dice it into pieces. Beat the egg, then add the cream and whisk a little more until it comes together; set aside. Cook the pasta. When the pasta is a minute or two from being aldente, add the peas to the water. It is very important not to overcook the peas so watch the pot carefully. Drain the contents of the pot into a colander and reserve a tbsp or two of water in the bottom of the pot. Return the pot to the warm (but turned off) burner. Add the egg mixture and stir. (note: don't worry, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg enough so you won't get salmonella or whatever else is going around these days...) Add the chopped bacon, mint, and cheese and stir until it all comes together. The egg, cream, and cheese will create a silky sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste and then eat it.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Spring Cleaning.

I've recently discovered an excellent way to organize my recipes. Thanks to a reader over at Serious Eats who suggested the method, I've been spending the weekend copying and pasting and throwing out all those torn out magazine pages.

The idea is simple. Open a gmail account for the sole purpose of emailing yourself recipes. Copy and paste the recipe from the blog, magazine site, or type in the content in the body of your message and title it with the name of the dish. It is also wise to include a link to the original post and the date and issue of the magazine you got it from. Now that you've got all those recipes in one place you can organize them with gmail labels. Add labels like soup, dessert, main course, tried and liked, etc. and label the recipes accordingly. You can add multiple labels to each recipe and then (this is the coolest part!), if you feel like having fish for dinner, simply click on your 'fish' label link and it will show you all recipes labeled as fish. Pretty neat, huh?

In the midst of all this recipe organizing I managed to try a couple new things. This shrimp and mango salad from this month's Gourmet was so wonderful we're having it again this coming week when the mango gets ripe. It takes no time to throw together.

Repost from Gourmet, April 2007

4 ounces very thin bean thread noodles (also known as cellophane, glass, or mung bean noodles)
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined medium or large shrimp
1 large mango, peeled and cut into cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh serrano or jalapeƱo chili
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cover noodles with boiling-hot water in a large bowl and let stand 8 minutes.
Drain noodles in a colander and rinse with cold running water. Drain well, then return to bowl.
While noodles are soaking, combine shrimp, mango, scallions, basil, and chile in another large bowl.
Stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt in a measuring cup until sugar is dissolved, then toss half of sauce with noodles and half with shrimp salad. (The sugar isn't going to dissolve in cold or room temperature vinegar so put it in the microwave for a few seconds to dissolve it.)
Serve noodles topped with shrimp salad.

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Fine Glaze

Ever since we moved from Virginia, I can't say that there is too much that I miss. No more cold Winters, blustery Falls, and Virginia Ham. OK, I miss the ham. I've been wanting to bake a ham ever since we moved down here and the ham withdrawal hit me. I had been carefully perusing the meat section looking for a smaller sized ham at a decent price and then I found one. Ta-da:

I had no idea how easy baking a ham could be! In a small sauce pan I combined 3 small cans of pineapple juice, a handful of cloves, 3 or so smashed cloves of garlic, chopped ginger, with some brown sugar. Once to a boil, I turned down the heat to reduce it a tad. In the meantime I rubbed the ham down with Dijon mustard and placed it in a pan. I poured the juice mixture in the bottom of the pan and baked it for about 1.25 hours (for about 6 lbs). I carefully basted the ham every 15 minutes or so and everything got caramelized and delicious. Slice it up and save the wonderful sauce it makes. There will be loads of leftovers. I'm making a quiche right now and of course endless omelets for breakfast.